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Potter, Robert (1831–1908)

from Malvern Standard (Melbourne)

Canon [Robert] Potter, the well known Church of England clergyman, died at his residence, 76 Caroline street, South Yarra, on Sunday afternoon last. Of late the deceased gentleman's health was not of the best, and consequently the announcement of his death was not unexpected. He retired from active work about three years ago on a superannuation allowance, admiration and gratitude being expressed at the Canon's long and efficient services to the Church.

Canon Potter was born on October 18, 1831, at Louisburg, County Mayo, Ireland, being the son of the clergyman of that village, and was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, where he took first prize in rhetoric and English literature, and "went out" first class in divinity, taking his arts degree in 1856. He had intended to take orders in Ireland, and had been offered a "title to orders," but was advised to seek a warmer climate. Accordingly he came to Australia, where his brother was already settled, and was ordained deacon at Sydney on April 25, 1858, and priest at Geelong in 1850. He served four years in Albury, New South Wales, and then came to the diocese of Melbourne, where he was appointed first to Maldon and afterwards to St. Mary's, North Melbourne, which parish he served for 28 years. In 1880 he was appointed by Bishop Moorhouse as lecturer in theology to candidates for the ministry. Some years later he was offered the deanery of Hobart by the then Bishop of Tasmania, but Bishop Moorhouse asked him to stay, and gave him a curate in order that he might devote more time to lecturing. He consented, and continued the work until April, 1905. In 1893 Canon Potter was inducted as incumbent of All Saints', East St. Kilda, from which he retired with his retirement from active work. In addition to his parochial and diocesan duties, Canon Potter was for some years examiner at the University of Melbourne in English and in philosophy, and when the Australian College of Theology was founded by the General Synod of the dioceses of Australia and Tasmania, he was appointed by the bishops of Australia as one of the six managers of that institution. He was the author of several books, including a volume of sermons, The Relation of Ethics to Religion, and The Germ Growers.

Mrs Potter predeceased her husband some years, and the surviving members of the family are two daughters and three sons. The sons are Mr John Potter (Bairnsdale), Archdeacon Potter (vicar-general of the diocese of Wangaratta), and Mr Robert Potter (Melbourne).

The late Canon had altruistic ideals of justice and commercial probity, the application of which marked every action of his private life, and his administration of parochial affairs. Certainly, a facility for those petty expediences—admissible, nay, demanded from the "man in the street" to round-off the angularities of social intercourse—was not a component of his character, but despite brusque mannerism, his sound advice and kindly counsel were based on a truly sympathetic knowledge of the frailties of human nature. Apart from his Churchmanship and eminent scholastic attainments, the memory of Canon Potter as a man of sterling honesty of purpose, action and speech will be long revered by those who had the privilege of his friendship and acquaintance.

The funeral of the late Canon Potter took place at the Melbourne general cemetery on Tuesday afternoon, when the Rev. Archdeacon Hindley read the prayers at the grave side.

A pre-interment service was held at All Saints' Church, where the deceased clergyman was vicar for 12 years. There was a large, number present, and the service was conducted by Archdeacon Crossley and Rev. L. Townsend.

The chief mourners were Messrs J. and R. Potter (sons) and F. Potter (grandson). The coffin bearers were Revs. E. Y. Withycombe. A. W. Shaw, T. K. Pitt, A. E. Saxon, J. S. Hart, E. Hughes, L. Townsend, and J. Cheong. At the conclusion of the service the Dead March was played by Mr Inge, church organist. The funeral arrangements were carried out by Mr Apps.

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'Potter, Robert (1831–1908)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 30 November 2020.

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